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Cooley eventing horses: “A bit of blood and a good brain…”

Oliver Townend (GBR) riding the 6yo Cooley Rosalent in the 2020 WBCYH, Le Lion d’Angers (FRA)

By Christopher Hector
Photography: FEI/Bailly; FEI/Law; FEI/Argenziano; FEI/PSV

With his win at the Kentucky 5* riding Cooley Rosalent, Oliver Townend chalked up his 100th five-star start, and his ninth win, making him the seventh most successful five-star winner in eventing history... So far, that is!

Oliver started riding the Cooley horses in 2018, with Cooley Master Class at Kentucky and Badminton, and Cooley SRS at Badminton and Burghley. That’s almost a quarter (23.684% to be precise) of his five-star starts since 2018 on a horse carrying the Cooley prefix.

The Cooley power

So, let’s look at the breeding of the horses from this remarkable power-house of eventing breeding. Master Class is more or less a history of modern eventing breeding in Ireland, on the one pedigree. He is out of Lully, by that great Thoroughbred sire of eventers, Master Imp xx, out of a mare by the Holsteiner that dominated eventing breeding for three decades Cavalier Royale, and out of Milparinka xx (Kings Equity x Pardal).
Cavalier Royale’s first eventer to compete internationally was the two-star gelding, Pinopel foaled in 1990. Since then, he produced six at one star, 24 at two, 13 at three, and 26 eventers at four-star or above.
Master Class is by the Belgian showjumper, Ramiro B, by the Holsteiner Calvini (Caretino), out of the Belgian mare, Lully by Hanoverian stalwart Wendekreis.

Oliver Townend (GBR) riding the 7yo Miss Cooley during the 2019 WBCYH, Le Lion d’Angers (FRA)

Ramiro B was one of the most popular eventing stallions in the UK with over 100 mares in 2016. He was made the first Ambassador of the BWP studbook because of the success of his progeny in showjumping and eventing. By 2015, Ramiro B had moved to second on the WBFSH Eventing Sires rankings, nine years later he is still ranked 21st.
Cooley SRS was by Ramiro B, and out of a mare by the half-blood, Kiltealy Spring (Sky Boy xx) out of mare by the great Irish Draught, King of Diamonds.
Cooley Rosalent is by the Dutch showjumping stallion, Valent, by the Selle Français, Hors La Loi III, out of a Lux Z mare. On her dam’s side, the grey mare is royally bred; her Thoroughbred dam, Bellaney Jewel xx Roselier xx [FR] - Sister of Gold xx [UK] x The Parson [UK], was a point-to-point winner. Rosalent is a full sister to Jewelent, whom Phillip Dutton rode in the Lexington CCI4*-S.
Now when I started seeing the Cooley prefix proliferating in eventing results, my first thought was ‘wow, that must be a very successful stud’, but the truth is more interesting. Turns out that they are not breeders at all, but use the whole of Ireland as their stud farm and combine that with an uncanny ability to spot talent to produce their Cooley horses. The team of Richard Sheane and Georgina Phillips started their operation back in 2004 and they now have a client base that reads like a Who’s Who of international eventing.
I asked Georgina if she thought it was possible to spot an eventer on the basis of its breeding? “No, is the short answer. We buy horses for eventing mainly from showjumping producers. They are horses that jump reasonably well and move well, but are not going to make the top grade. The long answer is a bit more complicated because, yes, you need blood, you need jump, but you need the attitude to be right. So there’s no fixed formula for breeding an event horse. You need to breed something that jumps, and from there, work out if it is brave enough and has the right brain to go and do the eventing job... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber